As a kid, my parents pushed me to excel in school. Most evenings and weekends, while the other kids played outside, I sat at my little brown desk reading textbooks a few grade levels ahead. When I got to class, I always excelled because I’d already learned the material.
This skill set was useful in the academic work, but in the real world, it’s done me more harm than good. When I’ve found myself struggling, my automatic response has too often been, “Try harder, go faster, do more.”
When I first buckled down to write The Art of Talking to Yourself, I was living in Costa Rica. I had the epiphany that I didn’t need pushing, not even from myself. I allowed myself to take breaks. I wrote about that experience in this post: “Embracing Pain in My Creative Process.”
Since then, I’ve still struggled to take breaks, but I’m learning. Each time that I do this, I become better at doing it. Each time I return with fresh eyes and fresh inspiration, I learn the importance of leaving and returning.
Lately, I’ve been learning the same lesson in a different form. I’ve realized that I set myself arbitrary deadlines and then drive myself crazy trying to meet them.
I set December 1st, 2016 as the release date for The Art of Talking to Yourself. Somewhere around mid-October, I realized that this wasn’t going to be possible. But even after I realized this, I kept trying, kept going, kept pushing!
You know when I finally stopped trying to get the book done on December 1st? About December 17th. This makes no sense, of course. But here I am, your nonsensical, imperfect human friend.
For about two weeks, I was trying to meet a deadline that was in the past! But I realized that this pattern isn’t that strange or that uncommon. How many of us plan to have something accomplished by a certain age, and when we don’t, we keep chasing that bygone deadline?
So, the solution, I thought, was to set another deadline—a better one. If you’ve read the preview of the book, you likely expect it to release on March 1st. For the past few weeks, I’ve been grappling with the fact that this is probably not going to happen. Unless I wear myself thin—again.
So what am I going to do? Am I going to do what I did in October: hide my head in the sand and hope for the best? Or am I going to be kind to myself now? Am I going to take the pressure off myself now?
An important part of self-love is hearing the whispers before they become screams. And even though I know this, I still sometimes bat those whispers away like annoying mosquitoes. Because my self-communications are inconvenient. Because what I’m saying to myself isn’t what I want to hear.
So, I’m going to take this opportunity to be kind. This self-pushing-run-myself-into-the-ground thing is something I’ve been slowly working on for years. Now, I have an opportunity to take one small step to heal this pattern. So I am.
I’m pushing the release date tentatively to May 15th. Honestly, I don’t know I’ll be done by then. I can’t control my creative process. For all I know, I could still be done by March 1st! Anything is possible. But, right now, I need to take the pressure off, so that I can do my best rather than my fastest.
I want this book to be helpful, beautiful, and insightful. That’s my goal. And, as a creative person, I can sit down every day to work on it, but beyond that, it’s really out of my control. So why am I trying to control it?
Maybe it’s time to admit it. My name is Vironika, and I’m a recovering control freak.
And isn’t it funny that I’m writing a book about learning to understand ourselves, rather than always fixing, controlling, and judging our experiences. Maybe there’s a reason it’s taking so long. 🙂
This journey can be so mysterious sometimes. Thank you, my friends, for walking with me. Your presence and support makes even the painful times more beautiful.